Study will reveal level of toxins in air


Last updated 11/8/2007 at Noon

The San Diego Air Pollution Control District will be collecting and analyzing data to determine with more accuracy the amount of particulate matter emitted into the air from the smoke of the October fires.

“We do have meters that are monitoring for the toxins,” said Air Pollution Control District public information specialist Anita Tinsley. “It will take a while to have that data.” Special canisters are used to sample particulate matter, although less detailed information is also being collected in a quicker fashion. “Fortunately, for this we have some continuous monitoring that is set up,” Tinsley said.

That monitoring is less accurate but still provides information. “We’re using that to try to determine what the levels are,” Tinsley said. “Even those we have to get the actual number.”

The Air Quality Index is a scale which does not necessarily reflect specific particulate or gas concentrations. An index of zero to 50 is considered good, 51 to 100 is considered moderate, 101 to 150 is called unhealthy for sensitive groups, 151 to 200 is unhealthy, 201 to 300 is very unhealthy and 301 to 500 is hazardous.

“During the fire we really did have hazardous conditions,” Tinsley said.

Although the concentration of gaseous pollutants can be measured quickly, particulate matter must be collected and weighed before the amount of particulates can be determined.

The particulate matter data must also be certified by the California Air Resources Board before it is released. A two-week timeframe is estimated for the collection and certification.

The preliminary data confirms that particulate matter has been above normal since the fire began. “The particulate levels are up throughout the air basin,” Tinsley said. “We’re hoping that they’re going to get better.”


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